August 31, 2010
August 31 - Placobdelloides jaegerskioeldi
Yesterday, you met Oculotrema hippopotami, a parasite of hippos that lives under their eyelids. Now, today, meet a parasite from the other end. The leech, Placobdelloides jaegerskioeldi, lives in the last 10 centimeters of the rectum of hippopotamuses and feeds on blood through that delicate tissue. A few years ago, I did some pretty exciting fieldwork in South Africa collecting these critters with Mark Siddall. But, don't worry - it was not necessary for anyone to reach up into the backside of any hippos (nor distract them on the other end). We were able to obtain some specimens when a nuisance hippo had to be culled by the Park Service there and the rangers very kindly removed some tissue with leeches attached for us (click on photo for a better view of the adult plus several of its offspring). However, we still spent a very harrowing morning poking around a river, looking for more samples, with hippos just 30 feet away or so. These leeches were collected as part of a larger project that we were conducting on the endosymbiotic bacteria that they have.